2019 Kia Sorento Review

2019 Kia Sorento - Updates for 2019 keep Kia's midsize crossover competitive.

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Sorento is a midsize crossover that seats seven and comes with front- or all-wheel drive. It was last redesigned in 2016 and gets a host of changes for 2019. The 4-door wagon competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas. Sorento is mechanically similar to the Hyundai Santa Fe.

For 2019, Sorento gets freshened interior and exterior styling, a new-8-speed automatic transmission on V6 models, and new features that include a driver-attention warning, lane-keep assist, and a Harman Kardon audio system with surround sound. Gone for 2019 is the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which is likely to be replaced by a diesel offering later in the model year.

Sorento is available in 6 trim levels: L, LX, LX V6, EX V6, SX and SX Limited. The L starts at $25,990 and the line-topping SX Limited is priced at $44,690. The L and LX come standard with a 181-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. All other models come with a 3.3-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower. It mates to an 8-speed automatic. The L is only offered with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an $1800 option on other models. Maximum towing capacity on 4-cylinder models is 2000 pounds, while V6 models can tow up to 2500 pounds.

Lane-keep assist and driver-attention warning join forward-collision warning, smart cruise control, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning to make up Kia's available Driver Assistance System. Additional enhancements for 2019 include an available wireless charging tray and Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration.

The Sorento's base 2.4-liter engine does not impress. While it's fine for light-duty grocery getting, it's taxed once you add a few passengers or a couple hundred pounds of cargo. Plus, it is a bit gruff and saddled with a 6-speed automatic that's sometimes bulky at low speeds and always slow to downshift when more power is necessary.

The available V6 makes much more sense, unless fuel economy is your ultimate goal. With a 0-60 MPH time of about 7.7 seconds, it's plenty powerful. Additionally, the engine makes good mid-range power that results in vehicle that feels much more energetic around town. The new 8-speed automatic shifts with more smoothness than last year's 6-speed and provides a wider ratio of gears for robust passing punch at all speeds.

Unfortunately, all of this power comes with a price at the pump. The V6/AWD combo is EPA rated at 19 MPG city and 24 MPG highway and 21 MPG combined. That said, those numbers are on par with most competitors. Thankfully, it's easy to match the EPA estimates in real-world suburban commuting. If you add in some light highway driving, you might see as high as 26 MPG overall, but that 21 number is likely spot on. The largish 18.8-gallon fuel tank helps give Sorento a nearly 400-mile cruising range.

Sorento's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. It does offer a 4WD Lock mode that splits torque evenly front to rear. The system also has a torque transfer system that's designed to enhance steering response. On paved roads, the AWD system works well to transfer power to the wheels with the most traction.

Steering and suspension improvements for 2019 give the Sorento a much more athletic feel from behind the wheel -- especially the SX and SX Limited. The suspension is still tuned to provide a comfortable ride, but the enhancements remove some of the untoward bouncing and bounding that was found in the previous model. Most will find the Sorento's ride to be quite comfortable overall though the sport minded will wish there was a little more ride control overall.

Enhancements to Sorento's electric steering may have helped improve on-center feel and reduce highway fatigue, but there's still very little road feeling off center and the boost level is too high overall. Brakes seem to have good stopping power and the pedal is very easy to modulate. Interior noise levels are appropriate for the class and the V6 engine does not intrude.

Though sporting a very familiar layout, Sorento's interior is nicely trimmed and boasts plenty of high-end, soft-touch materials throughout. Materials seem sturdy and fit and finish are top notch. Drivers face a large speedometer with ancillary gauges flanking left and right. The center console is framed by a large touch-screen display and also boasts traditional buttons and knobs for the audio and climate systems. There are a few buttons buried to the left of the steering wheel, but overall the design is extremely functional and refreshing in a class with overtly stylized interior designs.

At just 198 inches overall, the Sorento plies the smaller end of the 3-row crossover caravan. That said, front seats are nicely padded and offer great head and leg room. The driving position is commanding and offers an excellent view of the road. Second-row seats are roomy when pushed all the way back, but knee space drops dramatically if they are pushed forward to make the third-row seats more adult friendly. Speaking of the third-row seats, they aren't the most accommodating, regardless.

Cargo space with the third-row seats in place is a scant 11.3 cubic feet. That's hardly enough to hold a long weekend's worth of gear. Fold the third-row seats and space grows to a respectable 38 cubic feet. With all seats folded, there's 73 cubic feet. While quite large overall, it trails segment leaders plus the second-row seats don't fold completely flat. Interior storage is good with lots of open and covered bins throughout. Kudos for a wireless charging dock that's both useful and accommodating for nearly all phone sizes.

Sorento's upgrades for 2019 are significant and help this midsize crossover stay relevant. Pluses include a peppy V6 engine option, an abundance of safety and convenience features, and affordable pricing. The third-row seats are not adult friendly and the steering, though improved, is still annoying at times. This is the most competitive vehicle segment right now and that's great for consumers. Do your homework and drive what you think you will like. You will come away with a clear winner and you'll be able to negotiate a great deal.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and hardcover automotive titles.

In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on ABC TV, Fox News, and Speed Channel as an automotive consultant. Previously, he was a regular on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show and now fills in for Paul Brian on the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.

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